Getting My A-Wing On

My newest addition, an A-Wing and TIE Advanced (for those not in the know, this is Darth Vader’s boat in A New Hope.)

So now I have quite good variety in my forces. I can’t quite do a “spam” of TIE Fighters yet (they’re still as rare as hen’s teeth, and I can’t get my hands on any) but I can do a nice mix of Rebel fighters and, as my brother proved, drop a sizable fleet of mixed TIE’s for them to shoot at.

So my brother and I had two battles. I played as rebels first, and imperials second. Neither went too well for me but it was nice to get so many mini’s out on the table.

Rebels – yay! Empire – boo!

First up I went with a mix of Rebel ships and flew them in tight formation. My idea was to use the abilities of pilots like Biggs and Dutch that give allies within range 1-2 advantages. The biggest problem I found with doing this was the Y-Wing really slowed the A-Wing and X-Wing down… also the imps had WAY MORE GUNS! The extra skill of my pilots was largely off-set by “swarm” tactics that elevates pilot skill and Darth Vader’s ability to give low-ranking pilots an extra action… that was all on top of the fact that Soontir Fel and Darth Vader have better skill than most Rebel pilots anyway. So the only advantage I had was in my pilot’s special abilities, and they just don’t cut it against nearly 2:1 odds.

The biggest problem my brother had was his own ships. This is why you should fly in formation, boys.

The A-Wing is pretty damn hard to hit, so it survived until the end, but we hardly made a dent in the TIEs. I tried to get them with an Assault missile – I had the perfect opportunity to damage every single ship in one shot, but the force was not with me.

On the other hand…

The next game I wanted to see how Darth and two TIEs would go. Wanting to have a fairly elite squad, I opted for two TIE Interceptors to assist Darth.  I even gave Darth an engine upgrade so he could boost with the INTs and they could stay nicely in formation – hopefully for the whole battle. My Brother also had 3 ships – an A-Wing flanked by 2 X-Wings.

My brother’s formation fell apart almost immediately, and I was able to get my squad looping around and behind him… unfortunately a couple mistakes (such as not correctly understanding how “turning while keeping formation” works) meant my formation broke down. As my ships broke off to engage individuals, I made a grievous error with Darth and he (effectively) lost two turns crashed into an asteroid. (NB: I think a lot of people play this rule incorrectly. If you hit an obstacle, and the front guides are not fully through the asteroid, when you move, the maneuver template will overlap the asteroid for the second turn. That means if you end up largely in the MIDDLE of an asteroid, as Darth did in my game, you have to roll for damage two turns in a row, and you get no actions two turns in a row. Particularly for Darth Vader who gets 2 actions a turn… that’s painful.)

There was a dramatic turn where 3 ships blew up. The below two images shows the before and after.

So there I was. One on One. Interceptor vs A-Wing. They’re very similiar, the two ships, but my brother’s A-Wing had an unbeatable combination of higher pilot skill, and “Push the Limit.” This meant that no matter what maneuver’s we picked, he could correct by boosting twice to ensure that he was out of my arc, or get me into his. It was a little ridiculous actually.

Truth is, though, if I hadn’t driven Darth into an asteroid for two turns, there is very little chance he could have avoided those two in combination. Oh well. Next time, I guess.

Weekend Games – X-Wing again!

I quite like X-Wing Miniatures, but really I’m just trying to get my money’s worth out of them.

I had a couple of games with my brother again. We take a novel approach to force-building. First we randomly pick a side, and build a 100-pt force for that team. Then, we randomly pick which team we play… so you only have a 50-50 chance of actually playing the side you built. This works pretty well because you have to take a fairly serious approach to building the force, as you might end up with it … but at the same time you can afford to play around a bit, because you’ve only got a 50-50 chance of having to play with your own crap.

So I built the Rebel Alliance and I decided what would be cool would be Luke Skywalker in an X-Wing, then Han Solo and Chewie in the Millenium Falcon. I built Luke quite defensively, and Han quite offensively both had maximum bells and whistles.

Meanwhile, Scott had decided it would be cool to load Boba Fett in Slave I up with pretty much every expendable item available – homing missiles, proton torpedoes, proximity mines, you name it. For escort he had two fairly blank TIE fighters – Dark Curse and “Black Squadran Pilot.”

My tactic was to try and keep Boba Fett at range so he could use all the missiles and bits and bobs Scott had saddled him with, and use the two TIE fighters as bait. So I swung a path through the asteroid field that took me generally away from Han and Luke. I had planned to drop a mine somewhere there in the hope they’d fly into it when trying to follow me, but I totally forgot.

The bait worked well enough. The no-name TIE fighter came under heavy fire and was all but destroyed… when, on 1 hp, he pulled off an amazing 3 evades vs 3 hits that kept him alive one crucial round longer.

He used that turn to pull out of range, and Dark Curse became the target of choice. Meanwhile, Boba Fett had looped around and started to unload missiles and heavy cannon fire.

Luke was the first to blow up due mostly to Boba Fett’s fire, but Dark Curse got in some key hits as well. In fact, Luke was having so much bad luck I’m not at all convinced the force was with him one little bit.

Shortly afterwards 1-hp “Black Squadron Pilot” came back into range and Han finished him off. We were 1 loss for 1. Great odds for the empire.

As the fight drew on, I spent several turns hot on Han’s tail, shooting him with my primary weapon. I had him locked, but was saving it for a proton torpedeo – if he ever pulled away that is! Dark Curse had over-shot the Millenium Falcon and was weaving back and forth in front of him slowing him down a lot. In fact, things got REALLY tight there between Dark Curse and Han several times.

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Eventually Boba Fett over-shot Han and dropped his proximity mine, but Han utilised a house rule to pull away and both free himself from Dark Curse and dodge the mine. (The house rule is that ships can spend one turn outside the bounds of the board, so long as they are fully within the bounds of the board at the end of the next turn.)

With some breathing room Boba Fett did a Koiogran turn which put him out of range but the up-side was that he’d soon be able to fire the proton torpedeo. Han, meanwhile, was able to dispatch Dark Curse with that same breathing room.

Things were pretty even with Dark Curse gone, but in the same turn Han dispatched the final TIE, Boba Fett fired the proton torpedo, and it did tons of damage to the Falcon. Due to the sustained damage, and that final hit, Han ended up having something like 4 damaged components. His agility had been reduced to 0, he couldn’t do any red manoeuvres without risking damaging his ship further, his console was on fire (potentially adding 1 more damage each turn until the fire was extinguished) and he’d been nailed with a direct hit which counts as 2 damage.

Slave I and the Millenium Falcon passed each other head on. Han shot with his 360-degree turret, but although it brought Boba Fett’s shields down, it did no damage. Boba returned fire with his rear-firing gun, and blew Han Solo away. Empire wins!

Big Weekend of Board Games – X-WING

 

My brother, cousin and a friend came around over the weekend and we cracked out the X-Wing miniatures game, and the Battlestar Galactica board game. It took a few hours, but it was time well spent.

My brother (Scott) and I had played X-Wing plenty of times before, but my cousin (Ryan) and his friend James had not. So we decided to have a game of 2 on 2. Scott and James vs Me and Ryan. Scott and I built the sides, since we knew what we were doing, and then randomly assigned who took which force. We found we didn’t have enough miniatures to make a 200-point force on the imperial side, so we made it 150 points each.

For the Rebels we had Chewie in the Millenium Falcon, Biggs in the Y-wing, Luke and Wedge in X-Wings. Scott controlled Biggs and Luke. James had Chewie and Wedge.

On the Imperial we had Kath Scarlet in the Firespray, Soontir Fel and Turr Phennir in TIE Inteceptors, Night Beast and Mauler Mithril in TIE Fighters. Ryan controlled Kath and Night Beast, while I took Soontir Fel, Turr Phennir and Mauler Mithril.

Ryan and I decided that our tactic would be for the firespray to lead the charge, while the TIEs flew in formation behind. Deciding the asteroid field presented too much of an obstacle in the middle of the field, we’d fly on the left, and try and focus on the Y-Wing first. Its 360-degree ion turret is very annoying, and although a tough ship, it should wither under the combined firepower of all our ships. The Falcon also has a 360-degree turret, but it’s just too tough to focus fire first.

Things started well enough, with a nice smooth opening move, however from there it went poorly. Ryan flew Night Beast into an asteroid, where he remained mired for 3 turns (!) I made a great barrel-roll move with Soontir Fel to get a clear shot on Wedge, while avoiding his fire. Unfortunately, I forgot the order of play and after I fired, I used Daredevil to barrel roll back into his path. I thought he’d already fired, and the barrel roll would have set me up for a better run through the asteroids.

Proton torpedeos and general focus fire hurt Kath badly. Perhaps I should reconsider not focusing the big ships. They are simple to get within a firing arc, and they are pretty brutal unattended.

From there, things just slipped out of hand. Ryan couldn’t get Kath to use her lock for many turns, as we chased the Y-Wing. It had remained at the back  and even manoeuvred in such a way as to stay out of danger for several turns. Soontir Fel was able to slip through the field, and Wedge and Luke, but ultimately fell prey to the Y-Wing’s Ion turret (damn 360-degree arcs!!)

Kath didn’t last much longer, and Night Beast – having just escaped the asteroid field – promptly crashed into a friendly. All in all he had 5 turns, 3 in an asteroid field, 1 crashed into a friendly, and 1 with a stress token. It was not a good day.

At the end, there was only Mauler Mithril left, and not a single Rebel ship was down. Sticking to the original plan, I was able to dispatch the Y-Wing and one turn later, the Falcon finally removed the pest.

Well, after all that we set up Battlestar Galactica. 4 players isn’t the best balance, because we need a sympathiser or something similiar. So next post – BSG with Pegasus expansion and a Cylon Leader. Tune in to hear the scandal of Detector-Gate.

The Battlestar Galactica Board Game and its Expansions

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The Battlestar Galactica board game is probably my favourite of all time. Not only does it have exceedingly clever mechanics and nearly endless replayability, but it also captures the theme (one that I didn’t even like that much before the board game) perfectly in nearly every way.

So let’s pretend that my two sentences convinces you of this fact. Or, perhaps, you are already part of the choir. I’d like to talk a little about the expansions.

There are 3 (well 2, with a 3rd coming later this year):

1. Pegasus, covering events in the second season and the season opener of the third.
2. Exodus, covering events of the rest of the third season.
3. Daybreak, which looks to cover the rest of the series (season 4, essentially.)

Pegasus

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The thing about Pegasus is that it was the first expansion and afterwards I believe the game designers decided to take a more modular approach. Pegasus, therefore, does not benefit from this. It is often considered a “rules patch.” For this reason I have heard many dismiss it as “not worth the money” but I personally think this is terribly unfair.

It is true that the Pegasus box is the same size as the base box, but far lighter. It is also true to say there are a lot more bits and pieces in Exodus. For my money, though, I think Pegasus is a far more important expansion.

It tries to achieve two main goals.

First it attempts to rebalance the “sympathiser” mechanic. It is a very unpopular mechanic and many people feel that it is both too “gamey” and also prone to wild balance swings between the two teams. The expansion provides several options for alternatives that generally centre around a enigmatic Cylon Leader. They’re almost a third faction that wins with one of the teams, but only after a series of criteria are met. They’re designed as a balancing factor hindering or helping both sides at different times, depending on their secret agenda.

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Secondly it tries to tidy up a few core game mechanics that didn’t work so well. It achieves this through a number of rule tweaks, but mostly through a new “Cylon Location Overlay.” This changes the way several of the cylon locations work fairly dramatically. For example, cylons can wait in the resurrection ship after revealing and draw more super crisis cards. They cannot, however, go back in to the resurrection after they leave it. It also introduces the Pegasus board. 4 new powerful locations for the humans to help fight raiders and basestars.

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The expansion does also add in some new content – new characters and a new skill deck, for example. These are nice, but don’t impact the play all that much and feel more like bonus material rather than important additions.

Our group found it incredibly difficult for the humans to win with the base game. Our human win to cylon win ratio was probably on the order of 1:10. However, since introducing Pegasus things have evened out considerably. Cylons still win more often than not, but we find the games go down to the wire far more often.

I had originally shied away from Pegasus because of the new Pegasus board taking some of the space-combat limelight away from the pilots. This is certainly true, but we have found it’s not really as bad as we expected. The pilots do still see a bit of action, and everyone is still needed to pull through. I was also deathly afraid of the addition of Admiral Cain. Her once-per-game ability to “blind jump” seemed so strong as to make her a “must pick” character. While she is certainly a powerful character, in practice I don’t find her quite as game breaking as I expected.

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Lastly, I’ll quickly mention the occupation on New Caprica. This is an alternative ending condition for the game where a mini-game is basically played that the humans need to try and survive. Things are very different to the rest of the game, so it was not received very well. We typically don’t play with it, as it is optional, but like other additions with the expansion it can add a bit of extra flavour.

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All-in-all, I think Pegasus is a “must-have” expansion.

Exodus

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I actually picked Exodus up as my first expansion on the recommendation of several people on BSG forums I frequent. They told me how it makes it so that those that pick pilots were not always so bored, and it balances the game better, and makes Cylon attacks less random.

I was a little surprised by some of the comments, since pilot roles were very popular picks in our groups and they were always extremely busy. I couldn’t imagine why they would be described as “boring.” Cylon attacks were certainly brutal, but I really enjoyed them nonetheless. If Exodus improved on that, then all the better.

Exodus went for a far more modular approach than Pegasus which I think most players appreciated. There was not much in Exodus that was absolutely required, instead it shipped rules broken into 3 totally independent sections that could be added to the game. So you could play with 1, 2, or 3 of the Exodus components, or even just add in the new Exodus cards and characters (and the couple rule clarifications) and play with none of the new components.

Although there was a little bit of tweaking to the rules (for example, some adjustments to Pegasus additions – such as execution – that had a few flaws) most of Exodus was designed to shake up well-established strategies and tactics the community had developed. It tried to provide more ways for people to behave seemingly contrary to the human’s goal, but in actual fact are keeping the toaster threat at bay. In this way cylons could more easily sabotage the fleet without being immediately outed. Suspicious, sure, but this whole game is about sowing suspicion.

By far and away the biggest addition in the Exodus expansion is the “Cylon Fleet Board.” It removes cylon attack cards from the crisis deck entirely relying instead on having a cylon fleet build up on a secondary board. When this fleet catches up to the human fleet, you transfer the accumulated pieces on to the main board. Thus the attacks are more like a gradual build-up, followed by a large attack, rather than a fairly random collection of small attacks that may add up to large ones.

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I didn’t realise that pilots were less utilised at the time because of the Pegasus expansion, and I’m not entirely convinced that Exodus fixes anything. We found our pilots spent all of their time “escorting civilians” off the board, rather than shooting at toasters.

I personally find the whole process very silly. The problem is in the details, which I won’t get in to, but here’s an example:

It is often times good for the humans to have a basestar attack. Due to the way the rules are written, if a basestar attacks there is almost no chance of the rest of the cylon fleet showing up. The idea is that the whole massive fleet shows up at once, but various conditions can make a lone basestar show up. A lone basestar is really not much threat, so it is definitely the humans preference to let it show up and they make no effort to kill it, knowing that it effectively gimps the rest of the cylon fleet.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of strategy involved with the board – on both the human and cylon side. There are a lot of choices to what might be the best action to take… but they often don’t make much sense, such as the above basestar tactic.

I also don’t like that removing the attack cards reduces the strength of abilities such as scouting, or Roslin’s Religious Visions since attacks can no longer be avoided through those abilities.

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The other additions brought by Exodus are interesting, but not necessary. They’re also simply problems for the humans to overcome – they bring very little positive power to the humans. As a result, they just make the game harder (and when you’re looking at 1:10 lose:win ratio, that’s a tough pill to swallow!) It doesn’t make it that much harder, but anything that sows suspicion – by making it dangerous to look at each other’s loyalty cards for example – makes it harder on the humans even if only by a little.

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Finally the ending condition is mixed up once again. It’s mostly fluff – as opposed to New Caprica which can be difficult and game changing – but that suits fine. It’s a fun way to mix up the game as it winds towards a close finish, without greatly changing things.

As far as I’m concerned, Exodus is good but not necessary. I think you’ll probably have the best time with both Pegasus and Exodus, but if you HAVE to pick one, go with Pegasus as it is better suited to improving the base game. Exodus is mostly fluff and loses some of its re-balance without Pegasus.

Daybreak

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Daybreak is not out yet, but from what we’ve seen so far it looks quite good. They’ve had another go at rebalancing the sympathiser mechanic. Now it is replaced by a new title. Between the original “President”, “Admiral”, and Exodus’s “CAG” most players had a title already. Now there is an interesting new one called “Mutineer.” The idea here is that the everyone gets powers that are presidential-like but you can only hold one of these “mutiny” cards at a time. If something forces you to pick up a second, you are immediately brigged as a mutineer. Therefore, it is probably wise to play this card – unfortunately most cards are both good and bad at the same time. Usually helping in some significant way, but also hurting the human cause in another way. It is probable that sometimes you can afford to lose one resource to gain some benefit… but other times it is not a good idea at all. So – are people trying to stay out of the brig, trying to help, or actively harming the human cause? Who knows!

The mutineer, meanwhile, can hold more of these cards than normal. This means they hold a special role of being able to utilise these special cards more effectively… or to greater devastation. It all sounds very interesting and fun.

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A further reveal of Daybreak shows the new destination and the new ship (The Demetrius.) This ship gives the humans even more decisions – they can now run “missions” from there which are like higher-stakes crisis cards. If the humans are feeling confident they can use The Demetrius to try and squeeze out some extra juice… or alternatively a hidden cylon player may drop an unrequested mission on the humans that they have no hope of passing. The effects of these missions cards tend to be really good or really bad. I’m not sure yet whether this addition will be nice to have, but not necessary; mostly ignored among all the other options the humans have (with so few turns!); or a great must-have addition to the game. One quite siginificant addition is a new Rebel Basestar board. Presumably this is somewhat like Pegasus in that it grants quite a lot of firepower – the catch is… it could join either the humans OR the cylons.

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All in all Daybreak sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun. I don’t know if it will be a “must have” but since I already have the other expansions I’m not about to stop now. I have a feeling that Pegasus will still be necessary, but after that Exodus or Daybreak will be either-or options.

A Final Note

I’m wondering if I can run 4 sessions in a row one long weekend. I’ll start one game with the base game, then work through each expansion with some rules to allow people to “carry over” to the next expansion. I have a few ideas floating around for that… but I don’t know if I’ll convince my friends to settle in for that much Battlestar Galactica!